The government of the president of the United States, Joe Biden, outlined a strategy to contain a variant of the coronavirus. Then another much more contagious one appeared. And now the country has more covid cases per day than last summer, when there were still no vaccines.
Biden reached his goal this week – a month late – that 70% of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Originally conceived as an affirmation of American resilience to coincide with Independence Day, the landmark now offers little to celebrate.
Driven by the delta variant of the virus, new infections are in an average of more than 70,000 a day, above last summer’s peak when vaccines were not available. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been criticized by experts in the medical and scientific community for their changes of opinion about wearing chinstraps.
But the delta variant makes no distinctions when it comes to politics. If Biden’s response to the pandemic seems insufficient, Republican governors who oppose the precautionary measures they are also questioned. They, too, were counting on the cases to drop. Instead, unvaccinated patients crowd their hospitals.
Biden’s strategy managed to get vaccinations more than enough to protect the country, and to send 110 million doses to other countries. When the president set his vaccination target of 70% on May 4, the United States was administering about 965,000 first doses a day, more than double than it takes to reach the 4th of July goal.
Then things started to happen.
Although the White House was aware of the polls about people who refused or were not motivated to get vaccinated, authorities did not expect that almost 90 million Americans continue to turn their backs on vaccines that could save lives and offer a way back to normalcy.
The spread of misinformation about vaccines allowed it to spread shadow of doubt that already existed in some communities, especially in states with a Republican majority.
However, on May 13, when the CDC lifted its recommendation that fully vaccinated adults wear chinstraps indoors, the leading indicators remained positive.
A party, a mistake
The agency said unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and get vaccinated soon. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated by ditching the chinstraps for a walk through the White House Rose Garden. In all the country the celebrations spread to cafes, supermarkets, terraces of bars and restaurants. People organized weddings and music festivals.
Between the applause warnings were not heard of the experts that there was no way to know who was vaccinated and who was not, and a country eager to end the pandemic basically bet to the honor code of its population.
“The biggest mistake of the Biden presidency when it comes to COVID-19 was the hasty and chaotic shift of the CDC on mask recommendations in May, ” said Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner and analyst.
“It had the direct effect of giving people the impression that the pandemic was over. It allowed unvaccinated people to have a clear path and behave as if they were vaccinated, and so we have the rise of the delta variant. ”
“I think they were naive.”Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said of the CDC. “They saw it as a carrot, a gift.”
Meanwhile, the delta variant had arrived and in a matter of weeks became the dominant version of the virus in circulation.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently confirmed how contagious the new variant is. “If you get the alpha variant, you could infect about two people without vaccinating, ” he said.” If you get the delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five people without vaccinating. more than double than with the original variant. ”
Giro and “U”
The CDC last week changed his recommendation about masks and also advised them for people vaccinated in closed spaces in regions where the virus circulates, which is now almost the whole country.
The immediate reason was a report from disease trackers about a recent outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The delta variant was responsible and most of those infected were vaccinated.
Although very few vaccinated people became ill enough to be hospitalized, initial findings showed that post-vaccine infected carried as much the virus like unimmunized people.
The report fueled doubts about vaccines in some places. Wen, the former health commissioner, said the CDC should have presented the Provincetown report in a broader context that showed that vaccines do protect. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment at first.
Back on July 4, Biden proclaimed that the nation declared its independence from the virus. In recent weeks it seemed to have put the pandemic on the back burner to focus on a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure and to promote the Democratic project to execute its ambitious plans for the country. The White House reduced its number of press conferences on COVID-19.
“We celebrate ahead of time”
“We celebrated ahead of time,” said Ali Mokdad, an infectious disease expert at the Institute for Health Statistics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. Biden’s target of 70% was a firm step, Mokdad noted, but in around half of the population remains unvaccinated.
Now the vaccinations are going back, but it is not a drastic increase, he pointed.
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans who have downplayed the use of masks, saw spikes in infections in their states.
Between Florida and Texas account for a third of new cases across the country in the last week. DeSantis reaffirmed Tuesday, blaming “media hysteria” as people spend more time indoors amid a scorching summer.
“Even among the many positive tests, you see much less mortality than a year ago, ” he said at a Miami-area news conference. “Do I prefer to have 5,000 cases among twentysomethings or 500 among the elderly? I prefer young people.”
Offit, the Philadelphia vaccine expert, said “it’s hard to see” how DeSantis claims it will not follow mask rules. “Why not?” Offit asked. “That is why his state leads the league in cases. ”
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar covers health legislation for the Washington bureau of The Associated Press. Zeke Miller covers the White House with an emphasis on the Biden administration’s response to the coronavirus for AP.